We present a new approach to understand the mechanism of "homogeneous", or Blech electromigration (EM). This phenomenon describes macroscopically homogeneous displacement of the up-wind edge of thin film lines in microelectronic devices and is responsible for openings at contact windows, "vias" and other sites of perfect diffusion flux divergence.
Our SEM, EPMA and EM drift velocity experiments have revealed the gradual transition from the microscopically homogeneous EM displacement to the highly nonhomogeneous mode wherein copious islands of residual material remain behind the drifting cathode edge of aluminum stripes. The transition is shown to occur due to an increase in either the current density, j, or in the stripe length, 1. The latter case suggests, that the transition results from the growth of the net grain boundary (GB) diffusion flux, I=le-Ib ,where Ie∝j and 1b∝1/1 are the EM flux and stress-gradient-driven back flux, respectively.
Based upon recent progress in the theory of GB grooving under "external" GB fluxes, with surface diffusion acting as the healing mechanism, grooves' propagation along the line and their merging is considered to be the micromechanism of the "homogeneous" EM. In terms of the simple model described, the transition from the slow receding of the cathode butt edge slightly wrinkled by shallow grooves (A-regime of EM) to the fast extension and merging of slot -like grooves (B-regime) accounts for the transition observed in EM mode, while in both regimes the EM displacement velocity, V, is presumed to represent the groove propagation rate.
The theory developed reduces to Blech formulae for V for the truly homogeneous A-regime and predicts quite different EM kinetics for the B-regime of microscopically nonhomogeneous EM. The latter is expected to dominate for films loaded by high current density with large grains and low surface diffusion.
The dependence obtained for the residual mass left behind the drifted edge vs the displacement velocity, V, for unpassivated aluminum stripes of various lengths, loaded by j=2-106 A/cm2 at 548K provides a good evidence in support of a new approach.